With the Greek economy in the throes of crisis, and its exit from the EU imminent, employment prospects for educated Greek professionals seem bleak. Questions over their homeland’s future have caused a mass exodus among many educated Greeks. The emigration of Greece’s most talented professionals has earned an informal name in the media; they are called ‘Grexit’s.

In fact, the modern western world has never before experienced a brain drain on this scale; Emigration levels have increased by 300% from before the crisis hit at the onset of the Great Recession. This diaspora exceeds 200,000.

Of those that have emigrated, educated professionals represent a sweeping majority, with up to 180,000 possessing a university degree. Over 10% of Greek professionals currently work and reside abroad.
After looking at the figures, it is not hard to understand why so many young and talented Greeks have left their homeland. The employment rate for those under 24 stands at an abysmal 50%, and between 2008 and 2013 Greece lost nearly 1 million jobs—over half of which belonged to young people. Considering that Greece’s total population stands at around 11 million, this represents a substantial decline in employment opportunities.

Those that have escaped the inhospitable economic climate have found better job prospects in professional fields abroad. Destinations in Europe are the most popular, with countries like Germany and the UK accepting more than half of Greece’s emigrants.

Germany in particular has become a receptacle for many aspiring Greek doctors, as its well-funded healthcare system has a large demand for personnel. So far, 35,000 Greek doctors have traveled to Germany where their pay is substantially better. Ironically, Greece actually possesses a surplus of medical professionals and has more neurosurgeons than even Germany, the largest country in Europe by population. This fact highlights an important, yet tragic, facet of the Greek Brain Drain; Greece possesses a disproportionally large number of high achieving and highly educated people, many of whom have already left.

Three percent of the world’s most prominent scientists hail from Greece. While that figure may seem measly, Greece’s population represents only .2 percent of the global population. Despite all of Greece’s scientific heft, 85% of these globally recognized scientists conduct their research and reside outside of their home country.

For Greece, this represents a devastating loss of investment. Funds spent on education, from both government programs and from family’s pockets, has essentially gone to waste; those who have enjoyed a Greek education and then chose to work abroad are not innovating at home. With so many talented professionals leaving, it will become more challenging for Greece to pull itself out of its depression.

Greek professionals are not alone, as 46% of Greeks have entertained the idea of emigrating from their home country. With this attitude settling upon many, the problem has only compounded. According to the managing director of Endeavor Greece, Haris Makryniotis, “there is a sense of paralysis, and it’s gotten worse since the elections in December.”

Greek banks have also mirrored this mindset and have stopped giving out loans. According to a report by CNBC, this “means that if you are running a business, there is no debt financing available for working capital right now. And if you are an entrepreneur looking for start-up capital, investors are not untying their purse strings.” Effectively the Greek economy is at a standstill.

There are no quick solutions to a crisis such as this. In order for Greece to prosper, its people, including its reluctant expatriates, must look towards the future. Many hope to return once the economy is back on its feet. Hopefully, at the end of their odyssey abroad, they will find themselves back home once again.

Andrew Logan

Sources: CNBC, The Economist, The Guardian, NPR
Photo: CNBC

Eritrean Refugees
Refugees are fleeing Sub-Saharan Africa’s poverty in search for job opportunities, political freedoms and basic human rights. The sad reality of this situation is many of these opportunities are few and far in-between, and their lives rarely improve above the dire situation they were leaving.

Eritrea is one of the nations many have been fleeing from. Isayais Aferwerki, the despotic dictator who’s ruled Eritrea since its 1994 independence from Ethiopia, is a main reason. The nation is home to rampant poverty, media repression and political oppression. Adult-aged males are regularly conscripted into military service with no definite end-date, and the President was quoted as saying the nation was not ready for free elections for at least another 20-30 years. The constitution has been suspended and Eritrea remains single-party state, with opposition political groups regularly rounded up and jailed.

Around 200,000 Eritreans have left the nation in search of freedom, but it has resulted in a human rights crisis. Eritreans regularly flee to Sudan, Egypt and Israel only to be subjected to discrimination, and in some cases, have fallen into human trafficking. Israel has prevented refugees from entering by building a fence, which has resulted in asylum seekers slowing “to a trickle” of their original amount.

Human Rights Watch published a report detailing the crisis in early February stating that “refugees are commonly kidnapped, and their families extorted to pay for their release.” Those who manage to avoid kidnapping are usually deported back. HRW has focused on the culpability of Egyptian and Sudanese officials in the kidnapping crisis. The allegation has been made that corrupt officials have been benefiting financially from the situation and are actively cooperating with kidnappers.

Physicians for Human Rights released a damning report on the conditions many Eritrean refugees face on the trek to asylum. The imprisonment rate of those interviewed was around 59%, while 52% claimed they were violently abused at some point on their way to the Sinai Peninsula. Slave camps are prevalent in Egypt. In El-Arish, there are camps reported throughout the area, populated with “slave traders” who “demand ransoms” for the release of African refugees.

The report detailed that many of these refugees were tricked through “promises of being led to Israel” but rather held against their will, while other’s detailed “severe abuse.” Twenty percent of those interviewed also described witnessing murders. Israel can be considered culpable in this situation. With the building of the fence, the average of 1,500 refugees gaining asylum each month decreased to only 25 entering “between January and April 2013.”

Israel has also mounted a political campaign to defend their actions, decrying the Eritrean refugees as a “threat to Israeli society.” The public response to these accusations helped allow the government to enact stricter immigration legislation, allowing for slave traders to flourish in the wake.

The Anti-Infiltration Law was passed in January of 2012 by the Israeli Legislature of Knesset, and allowed the Israeli Government to detain any people found crossing the border. The law even prevents many of these refugees from receiving a speedy trail, allowing the Israeli state to detain undocumented immigrants for “minimum of three years.” If a undocumented immigrant is from a state considered belligerent to Israel, such as Sudan, they can be “detained indefinitely.”

It was a crushing defeat for many Africans in search of a new life free of oppression. With no options, many still flee, but they may not find the salvation they are in search of.

– Joseph Abay

Sources: Turkish Weekly, US State Department, Haaretz, The Voice, Sudan Tribune, DW, Physicians for Human Rights, Haaretz